Two Greatest Pianists Differed in Style. How different can pianists be and still be on a par? This question is inspired inspired a quote from a quote:
- Henry Pleasants. a music critic from Philadelphia once asked Rachmaninoff: Who are the greatest of the living pianists.
- Harold Schonberg, music critic for the NY Times quotes Pleasants quoting Rachmaninoff in his own book, The Virtuosi: Classical Music’s Great Performers from Paganini to Pavarotti:
The story goes: Rachmaninoff thought a bit. “Well, he said, there’s Hofmann…”and he thought a little bit more, …”and there’s me.” Rachmaninoff did not say another word, as the story goes. The fame of Rachmaninoff as eclipsed that of Hofmann, but it is still worth looking into Hofmann’s background and accomplishments:
The Second of the Two Greatest Pianists
Josef Hofmann was born in Podgórze (a district of Kraków), in Austro-Hungarian Galicia (present-day Poland) in 1876. His father was the composer, conductor and pianist Kazimierz Hofmann, His mother the singer Matylda Pindelska. As a composer, Hofmann published over one hundred works, under the pseudonym Michel Dvorsky. Included two piano concertos and ballet music. In 1946, he gave his last recital at Carnegie Hall, He made 151 appearances at Carnegie. Retirement to private life in took place in 1948.
How Did the Two Greatest Pianists Differ?
Physically (1) Hoffman was short. Rachmaninoff was tall. Hofmann was loquacious talking fluently, readily, and incessantly. Rachmaninoff severe, stern, or gloomy in manner. His appearance was stern and he wasted no words. Hofmann color his music; while Rachmaninoff projected strength, structure and form. Advance planning marked the music of Rachmaninoff. Spontaneity marked Hofmann’s style.
What I find amazing is that Rachmaninoff, as the story goes, (1) Mentions Hoffman before he mentions himself. (2) He idolizes a polar opposite. (3) Then again, the mind of a genius is not easy to understand. My main teacher was primarily Mischa Kottler. Rachmaninoff, in the 1920’s gave Mischa a recommendation to study in Paris with Cortôt. Mischa then went and studied with Emil von Sauer. Enjoy this youtube recording of Mischa playing the Minute Waltz.
Chopin’s Minute Waltz, with a twist …